Most who personally know me, know by now that my mother passed away over the holidays on December 26.  Mom was 85 and was happy as a kid when I’d seen her on Christmas–she had gotten a bottle of perfumed lotion at a Christmas party and enjoyed reading a Christmas story when I visited her on Christmas Day.  She was chatty when my sister visited her the next day but just didn’t feel well. By evening, we had lost her.

But–and I hope my younger sister doesn’t mind–I’m taking the liberty of being the “big” sister here and lifting something beautiful she had done. I typically ask before doing these types of things, but I forgot to do so.

After all was said and done at the cemetery, we gathered as a family at the table and my sister produced the most beautiful essay about my mom. I want to share it with everyone. I’ve edited it to remove names–because I don’t like to provide publicity to those who have not asked for it. But here is the essay, which my sister honored me with reading at our luncheon last Friday:

Virginia’s Beautiful Life

How does one begin to describe the beauty of a life? What words could capture both the deep sorrow of our grief, and the overhwlming joy of having been mothered by such a devoted, loving, and reverent woman? “Mom” to me and my sisters, “Busz” to her six grandchildren, “Aunt Jean” to our cousins, “Virginia” to close friends. All of us loved her, and are better for having known her.

Today we honor our mother by telling her story. Mom’s life was never easy, having grown up in the depression. Her father died when she was 9, her mother died when she was 19. How lonely she must have felt. Mom had to grow up rather quickly, supporting herself with factory work from a young age. As a teenager, she assumed care of her young nephew when her sister could not manage. And she remained devoted to this nephew with special needs all of his life, emotionally, materially, and financially. Our mother had a very big heart.

On November 16, 1947, Virginia married Edward, a returning WWII veteran who flew missions over Africa and Northern Europe as a ball turret gunner. They lived in the old Kuschwantz neighborhood in Toledo, working hard every day–Dad at Champion Spark Plug as a machine set-up and repair man, and mom at FW Woolworth Co. as a store clerk. We didn’t have the finest house or the luxury of annual family vacations. In fact, by today’s standards we would have been considered very poor. But oddly enough, we never knew that. We believed we were rich beyond all measure because Mom gave us so many things that money couldn’t buy.

We had hugs every day. We had the love of nearby family, cousins, aunts and uncles who lived within walking distance that we visited often and shared holidays with. We had St. Hyacinth’s–our first parochial home where we formed lasting friendships and had a sense of community…baptisms, First Holy Communions, graduations. We had ham and kielbasa for Christmas, Christmas Eve “highballs” with Ciocia (i.e., 7UP with a cherry), and swieconka at Easter. We had the best vegetable soup on the planet (Mom’s, of course).  We had the value of education, the prize that so eluded our parents. And we had the example of a strong work ethic that served us well into our adult lives. Indeed we were rich, and we have bottomless wealth today for having been raised by Virginia and Edward.

Life speeds by too fast, and soon we girls grew up. Then the laughter of grandchildren filled the old house with new joys. Three. Dad was already in heaven by the time the next three arrived. But Mom knew them all. And loved with the rest of her huge heart. Babysitting for their working parents whenever she could, sending special gifts and prayers to celebrate their accomplishments, and traveling far distances to see them one more time. Oh the fun we had when you visited the coast, Mom. I will think of you every time I see your favorite “fee-ushia” ice plant flower carpet in Pacific Grove.

Even as Mom’s health declined in her advanced years, her spirit was mighty and her will to keep loving us never weakened, not even for a moment. Mom’s beautiful soul was always there in her eyes and in her smile. And especially in her appetite for chocolate! I spoke to her late on the day of her death, in the last afternoon. She told my sister to move to the phone to her left ear so she could hear better. Then she told me she didn’t remember what she had for dinner on Christmas but she loved me so much. I knew she was having some pain, but she said everything was alright, that she’d feel better soon. She went to Jesus later that evening. Her beloved guardian angel, with whom she had a most special relationship, took her by the hand and escorted her to the next world. It her time to go; we had the privilege and joy of knowing Momma long enough, and now it was time for God to take her back to Himself. After all, why should we have all the fun, her soul was created by the Almighty, and it’s time for Mom to go home.

Please allow me to share some of the wisdom Virginia has taught me. Top ten quotes from Momma:

  1. All work and no play makes Jane a dull girl.
  2. Sufficient for the day are the troubles thereof.
  3. God give me patience, and right now!
  4. I don’t know who started it, but I’m going to end it!
  5. After a time, the pain of loss is replaced by the joy of your memories.
  6. The hurrieder I go, the behinder I get.
  7. Be good to yourself.
  8. I’m gonna start out swingin’, and I’ll ask questions later!
  9. You’ll forget those labor pains after you see that beautiful baby…really!
  10. I love you more and more…and I’m going to hang up now…

Oh dear sweet Momma, sleep in His arms, rest in His peace.  Our hearts go on, and you shall live there there with us until we meet again. Our very own angel Virginia, our love goes with you.